All about an outrageous outburst over a dress

As a video of a middle-aged woman shaming and rebuking a young girl for wearing a short dress in a restaurant went viral, memory of an incident that took place two decades ago flashed across my mind.

Though the setting and times were different, yet there was an uncanny similarity between the two incidents. The place was the staff- toilet of a girls’ college where I was teaching. As I entered the washroom I got a shock to find our no non-sense, dynamic, energetic principal scolding a girl in the lavatory. Standing in front of the full size mirror, she was reprimanding the girl for wearing shorts, “Look in the mirror. You should be ashamed of what you are wearing….exposing your thighs.” In her no-holds- barred style the principal was admonishing the girl for dressing up inappropriately. However, the similarity ends here. It was not a random ‘aunty’ ‘moral policing’ the young girls at a public place but the principal of a college rightfully cautioning the girl for her inappropriate attire.

That was late 90s when most girls used to dress up modestly. The times have changed. Girls today are bolder, westernized and audacious in their attire. But I wonder if the choice of outfit can be disassociated from the socio-cultural environment. In liberal west it is quite normal for women to wear short revealing dresses, but while visiting conservative Arab countries they are issued advisory to dress up modestly to avoid unnecessary gaze. The message: Better to be dressed appropriately than to get unwarranted attention.

Coming back to recent incident of an outrageous outburst of a middle- aged woman against the girls, the behavior and conduct of the woman was highly objectionable. Asking men to rape the girls absolutely disgusting and vulgar! To Link sexual assault on women with the length of her dress is indeed a reflection of a sad, regressive mindset. Time and again it has come into light that rape has nothing to do with the dress of a woman. If that is the case, women in burqa should be absolutely safe but that is not true.

The recent incident led to outpour of disgust and anger in the social media against the ‘aunty’ (that is how the woman has been addressed in the social media). She has been ridiculed for her totally unwarranted shocking outburst against the girls. Faced with severe criticism and tremendous backlash on the social media the woman had to apologize.

Progressive young women have come out in large numbers on social media platforms to question the primitive attitude and regressive outlook, not just of this woman in particular but also the society at large. However, expressing wrath in the virtual world and winning the battle on social media is quite different from questioning the patriarchal mind-set in the actual world. Real challenge lies in changing the mindset of the society and educating men to treat women with respect. And, of course, it is also important for women to maintain their dignity.

(Published in momspresso on May10, 2019)

25 Replies to “All about an outrageous outburst over a dress”

  1. This is one subject on which I find myself quite conflicted. On one side I agree fully that length of a dress doesn’t invite sexual assault. Things happen to fully clad women as well kids. The very mention of this fact is painful to my heart and mind. I always give one anology if a woman wears expensive jewellery and walks out in unsafe environment she has more chances of being robbed. A woman in skimpy outfit may invite lascivious glances in an unsafe enviroment . She should be ab le to look after herself. As for maintaining dignity well the very definition of the word has changed. I only wish and pray that our girls should remain safe.

    1. As always you have put the things in right perspective.Rape may not have anything to do with the dress but why invite unwanted attention and stares by wearing revealing dresses.

  2. I agree with you Rama and appreciate your comments on that woman’s outburst. Unfortunately our generation is caught between clash of two contrasting cultures. Our younger generation does not want to be called backward. For a rapist dress does not make any difference. How to change their mindset is a million dollar question. Modern mothers have to thi nk about this before it is too late. In the race of so called modernism we are losing our cultural values. Our Project was started keeping all this in our mind.

  3. This reminds me of an incident which happened in another college .A new teacher who came from Bombay and joined the English department was wearing trousers and a jacket which is considered a formal dress in the West, the principal saw her in the corridor and told her that she should wear a Sari in the college .Needless to say that the teacher resigned and left.

    1. Interesting ! Perhaps those were the days when saree was compulsory for the teachers in city colleges. We, too, in MCM adhered to the saree as saress code foe decades together.

  4. Very well written. Though there is acceptance that clothes don’t lead to rape, still I feel everyone is not able to accept and acknowledge this thought whole heartedly. Reason is clear. We still lack clarity in our own mind regarding right and wrong on this issue. If we look closely at research, women have been raped by people known to them. So equipping one self with skills of judgement of people and their intentions , is what is required and not clothes. Equipping oneself with self defence techniques, pepper spray, Safety apps is important. If we use fire, we do make arrangements of fire extinguisher. If we go in swimming pool, we do keep life saver tubes near by. India is a land of mixed cultures and hence mixed opinions. So this confusion is inevitable.

    1. What an apt analysis on the subject, Navjot! The heinous crime against women is to do with the sick minds rather than the dress of women. But, I feel, why get unwanted attention by dressing up outrageously.

  5. One more excellent article written by u Rama….👌👌👏👏👏👏👏keep writing such a NYC and gud massage giving articles….

  6. Actually boys at the very young age should be taught to respect girls even outside the home. Boys should not be given VVIP treatment at home at the cost of girls. This will help to remove the problem from the root level. Girls are to be treated at par with boys not in the constitution only but also we should start from our homes itself

    1. Very true Mrs Chopra.
      I am sure the you can relate to to the college episode and know that she was Mrs Mahajan taking the girl to task in the staff toilet. She never minced words and I was witness to the scene .

  7. Costume has nothing to do with dirt prevailing in society .Madam,I also want my daughters to wear colourful chudidar suit dupatta but they prefer western attire.Parents,teachers and elders loves their girls a lot.So,they are very protective and possessive.Their way of blast could be wrong but theirs affection is great.

    1. Yes, of course ,it is to do with sick minds not with the dress of woman.There is nothing wrong with western dresses but the dress should not be such to get unwarranted attention.If you are travelling by a public bus and wearing a miniskirt that will be inappropriate.

  8. Ma’am,I didn’t know it earlier that the principal ma’am referred in the blog is actually Sneh ma’m.It’s wonderful! Ma’am taught philosophy to my friends,was very affectionate, discipline and always ready to help students.

    1. Yes Garima, Mrs Mahajan became the Principal of the college after Mrs Roy. She was a strict disciplinarian with the heart of gold.

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